Pan European Networks - Horizon 2020 - page 140

T
he strategic priorities of Horizon 2020 focus on 12 areas
of high growth and innovation potential, including
competitive low carbon energy, energy efficiency, and
waste and water innovation. The programme encompasses the
entire research and innovation cycle, supports strong partnerships
to build scale and critical mass, and has a significant cross-
cutting perspective.
The scientific research activities carried out by the GIA (the
Spanish acronym for Environmental Engineering Group) fall within
these priority areas. The group’s research focuses mainly on the
valorisation of biodegradable waste to recover energy and
materials, and on the efficient treatment of wastewater.
Anaerobic digestion
In the area of waste management, the GIA specialises in
anaerobic digestion processes. In view of its high greenhouse
gas emissions saving potential, using agricultural and other
types of organic waste to produce biogas has significant
environmental advantages in terms of heat and energy
production, and as a biofuel. Anaerobic digestion achieves two
useable products: energy (biogas) and matter (a digestate that
can be transformed into compost or from which nutrients and
other products can be extracted).
Our group studies co-digestion processes using different
substrates to compensate for nutrient deficiencies or excesses
which may occur in the digestion of a single type of waste. This
approach leads to greater efficiency in biogas production and
hence greater environmental and economic benefits. We also
study the feasibility of applying pre-treatments that favour the
hydrolysis and biodegradability of the complex compounds
present in some types of waste, such as sewage sludge and
cattle slurry.
Waste and wastewater
We have experimented with different types of waste (manure, food
waste, supermarket waste, sewage sludge, and biodiesel waste)
with the aim of optimising the process parameters involved in
biogas production. Depending on the amount and quality of
biogas produced, alternatives are proposed for its purification/
enrichment and use as an energy source. These include using
biogas for co-generation and using biomethane as a fuel, or
injecting it into the natural gas network. Similarly, depending on
the composition of the digestate, studies are carried out on
alternative uses, principally for use in agriculture, to regenerate
soil or to obtain biopolymers. The key aspect within the alternative
uses for digestates is to have marketable end products that have
been declassified as waste materials, and safe end products that
meet environmental standards.
Our research within the field of wastewater focuses on biological
and physicochemical treatments, prioritising low energy and low
chemical consumption processes, such as the use of low cost or
residual adsorbents for the removal of trace pollutants. The GIA
has carried out extensive research on wastewater from the steel
industry and landfill leachate, and is currently focused on sewage
and sewage sludge treatment.
Project participation
All this research has been conducted within the framework of
different applied research projects in collaboration with numerous
The Environmental Engineering Group focuses on recovering energy and
materials from biodegradable waste and wastewater
Energy and material recovery
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H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L
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